It is no secret that I enjoy photographing the little things. This hydro-sapien loves being able to see and share, the almost microscopic world that exists under water, with land dwellers. I have a deep appreciation for all creatures, and so, as I have been contemplating how to share some of the tiny critters I recently encountered, Cecil Frances Alexander’s words keep coming to mind.
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.–Cecil Frances Alexander
“All things bright and beautiful, All creatures great and small” immediately brings to mind the fabulous nudibranchs that I search for on every dive. Lately, in California, we have seen a scarcity of these critters. In the past few weeks, however, I have seen lots of nudibranch eggs, and lots of tiny nudibranchs. The image above is of a Hopkins Rose (Okenia rosacea, a nudibranch measuring about 1cm. It is not the most common, but I definitely think it is one of the most beautiful. Below is a Porter’s Chromodorid (Mexichromis porterae about 2cm long).
Since there are many very small nudibranchs right now, I have mostly photographed critters less than 1cm. This tiny Three -lined Aeolid (Flabellina trilineata) was only 5 or 6 millimeters long.
And its look-alike cousin, the Horned Aeolid (Hermissendra crassicornis,) was about the same size, although both species can get up to 36mm or larger.
And on an even smaller scale, I have spent a good amount of time looking through the seaweed for isopods and larvae. This tiny critter is just a few millimeters.
Some of my favorites are the skeleton shrimp, isopods that aren’t really shrimp, but bear the nickname because of their hilarious antics and the way they move around. They look like animated skeletons. This one is pregnant with eggs, and when they hatch, the babies will cling to her body until they are nearly half her size.
You may have to look closely to see them in the image below; Momma is covered with her offspring clinging to her antenea, back, jaw, and every other appendage.
Another fun find for me this week was a family of decorator crabs. They were very hard to photograph because of the movement of the water, and all the fish that were desperately trying to take a bite of them while I exposed them to the camera. They are covered in all kinds of growth such as sponges, anemones and hydroids. You can see the one below if you look for it’s eye which is about a third of the way down and a third of the way over from the right. It looks like it has a long nose made of a white flowering plant with a brown leaf. This one was less than a square centimeter.
With the exception of the skeleton shrimp with all her babies, all these images were taken in the last few weeks in California. The ocean is coming alive again after several months of quiet time. I am thrilled to see all the new life and awed by the creatures great and small living in the waters of the California coast.